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Reference Library: Pen and ink
'Pen and ink' refers to a technique of drawing or writing, in which colored (this includes black) ink is applied to paper using a pen or other stylus. It may be used as a medium for sketches, or for finished works of art. Pen and ink also lends itself to fine writing and calligraphy.


Different types of pens produce distinctive types of lines. Some, such as the crow-quill dip pen, produce slender and delicate lines. Other pens have a broader nib which can produce both thick and thin lines.
Most fountain pens and ballpoint pens are often regarded by many artists as being insensitive instruments or even not for true pen and ink work, but they are often useful for sketching in conditions in which a pot of ink would be a spill hazard.
Many technical artists prefer the Rotring Rapidograph or Isograph series of technical pens, which produce lines of extremely regular width and which contain their own ink. Originally the pens were used mostly for architectural illustration of new buildings, although this has now mostly been replaced by computer rendered visualisations. Since being popularised by Robert Crumb in the mid 1970s, Rapidographs have been the standard pens used by most comic book and graphic novel artists in the past, however they can have their problems if not maintained. Micron pens have been favored as of recently for their line work and disposability.


Iron-gall nut ink was the usual type of ink used in the West. In the 20th century waterproof Indian ink has replaced previously used inks, although this tradition does not preclude an artist using other types of mark-making materials. The paper used must be strong enough to resist the wear from a steel pen nib, and to absorb all the ink applied.


Many pre-modern cultures around the world developed the comparatively cheap and portable medium of pen and ink art to a high level of sophistication, notably the Chinese and Japanese. In late imperial China (1644-1912), of all the arts, pen and ink calligraphy was the most respected.
Pen and ink calligraphy was raised to a high level in Arabic writing, since some varieties of Islam forbid the representation of living beings. In some forms of Arabic calligraphy, the letters were delicately formed to suggest an image related to the meaning of the phrase being written, without being an actual image of a living being. There was a strong parallel tradition at the same time among Aramaic and Hebrew scholars, seen in such works as the Hebrew illuminated bibles of the 9th and 10th Centuries. For more information on Arabic and Hebrew medieval calligraphy see Calligraphy.
In Western art, pen and ink artwork can be traced back to the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Winchester and Canterbury manuscripts of the 9th century, characteristic of which are lively precise figures and animals amid decorative foliage and fine calligraphy.
In the Georgian and early Victorian periods in England, pen and ink was mostly used for quick sketches, often with a high degree of abstraction. George Romney produced a number of notable ink sketches of Emma Hamilton which are noted for the economy of his strokes, in which he produced instantly recognizable figures with a dozen lines. Later English artists developed the pen and ink drawing into a finished artform, probably the finest examples of which are the 1825 series of visionary landscape drawings by Samuel Palmer.
Like many of the arts which it is possible to practice with just a minimum of tools and materials, the status of pen and ink work is now very low in the contemporary art world, and it also suffers because drawing is not now generally taught in art schools. This state of affairs has not been helped by the advent of software rendering - it is now possible for software such as Photoshop, Poser, Painter and Piranisi to automatically take a photographic image and render it into an approximation of a "pen and ink" style, albeit one lacking the vital "human touch".

Book and magazine illustration

There are extensive histories of the use of pen and ink work to illustrate books and magazines, especially children's books and humourous/satirical popular magazines such as Punch. Many interior illustrations in books and magazines are still done in pen and ink because they thus do not require halftone screening, unlike continuous tone techniques such as ink wash or painting. However, special care must be taken in reproduction to ensure that fine inked lines do not spread and muddy when printed.
Particularly fine examples of the integration of pen and ink sketches with calligraphic text are the series of English hill-walking guidebooks made by Alfred Wainwright. Other commonly-known illustrators in pen and ink were: Aubrey Beardsley; Heath Robinson and Mervyn Peake.

Further reading

* [ Forty Centuries of Ink] - a Project Gutenberg free e-book.
Category:Writing instruments
Category:Art materials
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pen and ink".